Boondock Ramblings

I have been blogging about 12 years, although I don’t have all the posts from all those years. I do have some and I found this post today from around Memorial Day in 2014 while looking for another post. I thought I’d share it here again today and maybe share some of my past posts like Mama’s Empty Nest has been doing recently.


I remember the day Harry gave my son the VFW hat.  We were at a celebration at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars where they were honoring Harry because he was moving from the area to live with family.

I had taken Jonathan with me so I could grab a photograph for the local newspaper, but also so I could say goodbye to Harry, who I had interviewed years ago about his service during World War II. We had visited Harry at a nursing home a few weeks earlier while also visiting my aunt. My son, Jonathan, was 7 at the time.

I told Jonathan that Harry had fought for our country during World War II and to free the Jews during the Holocaust, something we had been talking about one night when he had asked me some historical questions. I remember how horrified he was about Hitler treating the Jews so awful and because of his age, I left out the worst of it, mainly only telling him how much the Nazis had hated the Jewish people and how wrong it was. After I introduced Jonathan to Harry, who was in the hallway sitting in a wheelchair, Jonathan, without prompting, saluted him.

Harry was touched and overwhelmed. As I sat and chatted with Harry, often having to almost shout since he had lost some of his hearing by then (he was almost 93), Jonathan drew a picture of Harry in the war, jumping out of airplanes and fighting in the Phillipines. Again, Harry was touched and impressed with Jonathan.

A week later when we attended Harry’s farewell celebration, we were surprised and emotional when Harry asked to see Jonathan and handed him two of his VFW Commander hats. Harry was thrilled to see Jonathan and smiled and talked to him, thanking him again for the salute and the picture.

We were definitely sad a year later when we heard Harry passed away. He had dedicated more than three decades to the local VFE post, where he served four years as post commander, 20 years as post quartermaster, 10 years as district quartermaster and three years as district commander. During his time at the VFW he had been named an All-American post commander, an All-American quartermaster three times, and also received several awards through the VFW.

DSC_4820DSC_4821-Edit-2When Harry passed away the  new post commander, Dan Polinski, told the local paper about the countless times Harry and others of Harry’s generation had stood in all kinds of weather to honor veterans who had passed away. Dan remembered one specific day where the rain was coming down, cold and stinging, against their faces.

“The younger of us, and I use that term loosely, said to Harry, O.C. Spencer, and some of the other World War II guys, ‘Listen, you guys, don’t stay out in this.’ The wind was whipping and it was brutal,” said Polinski. “Harry, and O.C., and all of the old crew — all of the old World War II guys who had stood with this Color Guard guy at many other funerals — just said, ‘No. He would do this for us.’” (Morning Times, Sayre, Pa. August 1, 2014)

I can attest to Dan’s story because I remember those rainy Memorial Days (in fact, I remember more rainy Memorial Days in Bradford County than sunny ones. It seems it always rains when there is a parade or a ceremony to honor veterans here.) I covered a few of those ceremonies for local newspapers and when I first saw Harry, and fellow World War II veteran O.C. Spencer, standing out in inclement or sweltering hot weather, I wondered why someone didn’t get them a chair or an umbrella, or usher them inside. Looking back I know it was because they stood not only to honor the fallen and those who served but to honor our country. They did what so many of us don’t, or won’t, do. They did what they’d done years ago when called to fight; standing when others turned or walked away.

DSC_5342_1We keep Harry’s hats sealed inside the clear plastic case he handed them to Jonathan in and we keep them in an honored spot next to a sealed American flag given to Warren’s family after his great-grandfather passed away. And when we do pull the hats out we not only remember the man who stood at every Memorial and Veterans day service, no matter the weather, in full uniform, honoring those who served and those who fell, but the man who came home from war, worked with troubled youth with his wife for a decade, worked hard at every job he did, and also showed us how to persevere during the toughest times in life.

It’s hard sometimes to look at the local Color Guard during Memorial Day services and not see Harry standing there, rifle propped against his shoulder, back straight, jaw firm, gaze steady. I find myself choking up at the memory of the dedication he showed and how a new generation is missing out on the lessons of perseverance his mere presence there taught us.

What is important, I remind myself, isn’t that he isn’t here anymore, but that he was there at all and that there are people still around who will work to keep his memory and legacy alive.

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I have been listening to TobyMac in one form or another since the early 1990s.

His son Truett was on a couple of his albums and when I heard Truett had died recently, I was completely shocked, as many TobyMac fans were. I still don’t know the details around Truett’s death, but I can’t imagine the pain Toby is in. He released a song about his struggles dealing with his oldest son’s death this week. I thought I’d share it here and follow it with a couple of happier songs from TobyMac, in case you aren’t familiar with him.

Toby is part of the Christian rock group DC Talk, which was huge in the 2000s and then when the band parted ways, he started his own solo career.

And some old school for ya’…

Do you start your new year off with a word you hope and plan will define that new year?
I’ve been doing that for a few years now, a tradition that started with my brother who was doing it with someone else on a blog. I really don’t think about the word that much during the year, to be honest, but sometimes I will remind myself of the word I chose (or feel was given to me) and redirect my attitude. It’s also interesting to look back at the end of a year and see how the world aligned with what happened that year.

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Last year my word was “contentment.”It took me several months into 2019 to reach the point of contentment in some situations in my life, however. I was not content with the loss of (or changes in) friendships at all last year, or with our traditionally difficult financial situation. But, over time, toward the end of the year, I started to settle in with the idea that friendships I had once thought would be around for a long time to come had faded and that we may never be rich, but somehow we seem to pull through and pay all our bills, even if it requires some sacrifices.

A couple of years ago I chose the words “peace” and “simplicity.” Everything in my world was not peaceful or simple during that year but there were periods of peace and simplicity at least. Decisions were also made with those words at the forefront of my mind, as much as possible anyhow. To keep with the sentiment behind the words I also cut out some people and aspects of my life that created little more than stress.

Another year I chose the word “restoration” because a lot in my life needed to be restored that year. The year I chose reconciliation we seemed to be reconciled with family but by the end of the year that had crumbled and they returned to only contacting us when they wanted something (usually transportation somewhere).

 

This year I am choosing the word “renew” because my life needs new energy – big time and in many areas, including my relationship with God, my relationship with family, my role a teacher for my kids, my health, my diet, my career (such that it is..or whatever it is), and my spiritual well being. That is a long list, but, really, my entire life needs an overhaul. My children’s lives also need renewal and one of the biggest areas where they need renewal are in their friendships. My daughter, 5, needs friends, period, and my son, 13, needs much better friends than he has now.

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I am using the definition of renewal that is “the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.” Not the definition of starting something back up again – unless I apply that definition to my life in general. I am broken. Physically for sure and in some ways emotionally and spiritually. I need to hit the refresh button in my life and revitalize my diet, my exercise, my mind, my spirit.

I am tired.

Every day.

I am physically tired but somedays I’m not sure if I am physically tired because I am emotionally and spiritually tired or if I’m physically tired because of something going on with my health. I have hypothyroidism, so that does make me tired. I seem to be in the midst of perimenopause, so that makes me tired. I may, or may not, have an autoimmune disease, so that makes me tired.  My vitamin d is low (which may be related to one of the possible health issues I have) so that makes me tired too.

But I think somedays I am tired because I think too much and my mental exhaustion translates into physical exhaustion. I watch too many sermons, trying to incorporate it all into my life in one fell swoop, instead of just watching one and meditating on that one sermon all week. I follow too many social media sites that offer encouragement, which I know sounds silly. How can you receive too much encouragement? But, when you try to apply it all at once like I do points from the sermon, it can become too much.

In other words, sometimes there are too many voices in my head and I need to silence them so I can hear God’s.

“Just…ssshhh. Let me think. Let me hear.” That’s what I want to say to all the voices.

“Let me try to figure this out before ya’ll start yelling at me about how to get my health back on track; how to get closer to God; how to improve my spiritual walk; what I should eat to feel better; who I should watch for spiritual guidance; what I should/shouldn’t be saying to/doing with my children.”

I just can’t listen to it all anymore.

I need renewal and I need it with a little less noise.

That’s why five days ago I started a complete social media fast that I hope will force me to focus on the areas of my life I need to work on. Health is certainly at the top of that list because, as I mentioned above, I am tired. My muscles hurt. I am winded from climbing the stairs most days. And, yes, I am grossly over the weight I should be for my short stature.

I do not eat fast food. I do not eat bread. I do eat some sugar. I do not eat regularly or include enough protein with each meal. And I do not exercise because – did I not mention this yet? – I am TIRED!

However, I do know that exercise can help with that as well, so I hope to incorporate at least some walking this year and go from there. To be honest, though, I’m so tired today (a few days before that lovely Aunt Flo comes) that even writing “I plan to walk more this year” makes me feel like a blooming hypocrite. I don’t know if I really do “plan” to walk more, but I “want” to walk more. How about that?

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Other words I could adopt this year: reinvigorate and refresh. I need to be reinvigorated and I need to hit a refresh button.  Part of that refresh we hope will come by selling this house and moving to a new one. Leaving this house won’t leave behind the hurts we’ve experienced while living in this town. It won’t change that family on my husband’s side have barely spoken to us in years and somehow blame us even though we tried to reconnect but were always told “We’re too busy for you.” Moving will not change many things, but we see it as a type of restart – a chance to make some changes for the better.

That restart started for us in April of this year when my husband started a new job, 40  minutes from where we live now, and opened up a door to an entirely new experience for him. The rest of the family is ready for some changes and new experiences too so right now we are praying we can sell this house, buy the one we already have an offer on and “get out of dodge”, so to speak.

So how about you? Do you choose a word of the year? A word to help guide you throughout the year, not pressure you like a resolution? A word to grow with you as you step through each day? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in choosing a word and would like some guidance on how to do it (even if it just for yourself and not to announce to your readers or publically) check out The Dolly Mama’s post, How To Choose Your Word of the Year (helpful reminders and simple steps)…Find Out Mine

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There we sat three days before Thanksgiving, a huge sign in our front yard, announcing to the world the house we are living in is for sale and we’re looking to get out of dodge.

It’s a surreal feeling, sleeping in a house that one day soon may no longer be yours. You lay awake thinking of the memories made within those walls and how the building meant something to you but might not mean anything to anyone else and wondering if you will be okay with people scoffing at the way you didn’t keep up with maintaining your house the way you might should have.

You wish you’d painted the bathroom wall before the real estate agent came in, cellphone in hand to upload photos to the internet of where you lived for the past 16 years and where you still live, for the entire neighborhood to judge you by.

Someone we know recently put their house up for sale sale and because the person no longer speaks to us, an acquaintance thought it was okay to tell us “a friend went to the open house and said the house looks so bad inside. It’s sad.” The house doesn’t look bad inside. I’ve seen the photos and been in there, though not in a long time.

It’s amazing how lives get picked over based on the condition of a building and how judgments are made based on ripped wallpaper in a kitchen.

Money was something we had years ago so we added a new roof and a fence and new, laminate floors then. But since then we haven’t painted inside or scrubbed the heckola out of the tub like we should have. Now we are left with self-imposed guilt and maybe a little personal disgust at ourselves for not being on top of such things.

But . . . life happens.

Chronic illness sets in, stress happens, friendships are lost, family members pass away and eventually you don’t notice the flaws in the house because you stare at it every day and it’s just your house, so much less important than the gnawing worry in your gut that you’re somehow ruining your children or will never have real, meaningful friendships again.

So here we sit in this house, a sign in our front yard, photos live online and the soul of the house left open for others to judge and shake their heads at. It feels almost cruel, leaving what has sheltered us – our children and our pets for so long behind but yet we hope that when we do some other family will come and find within its walls the same comfort, the same shelter, the same memories to be made.

Maybe it will all come full circle – a young couple standing on the porch, like my husband and I did so long ago, unsure what the future would hold but hoping for the best. And maybe a baby will be added like it was for us and life will really begin and then one day, they’ll know that it’s time to move on — more space needed, a new job started — and step away like we did, only to start the cycle all over again when the house wraps its arms around another family.

When I was in high school and college I wrote and sketched and photographed what I wanted without much thought to how it might upset or bother someone.

I would definitely say I was much more in tune with my creative brain back then. I stayed up late creating either through drawing or writing, rarely concerned with someone seeing my work and casting judgments about it being “proper” or not.

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.

During that stage I wrote poems like “Living Statue” but never showed them to anyone. After all, poetry wasn’t really my thing – my brother was the poet. Plus, what would people in my life think about me writing about the half-naked model in my college art class. An offside about that, I had no idea we’d be drawing half-nude models when I signed up for that class.

I went to a smaller state school and had no idea they were progressive enough to allow such things. Imagine my pleasant surprise at being given the chance to sketch the human body, but also imagine my complete embarrassment at being asked to stare at that human body for an hour class. Luckily my art teacher wasn’t progressive enough to provide a completely nude model. Ha! I might have passed out during class.

Over the years my poor brain took a beating from the judgments of others and I, sadly, let those judgments affect how I created. Even sadder is that sometimes I still do. Echoing in my head are voices of the past scolding me for creating the way I wanted to, squelching what I really want to say or show.

To this day, I find myself thinking: “Who will be offended by this?” “What Christian will call me out and tell me I’m not Godly enough?” or “Who will remind me (again) they only hire photographers who pose their color-coordinated dressed family with perfect backdrops?”

Luckily I find myself doubting what I create a little less than I used to, hoping I can someday get back to the early days of not caring what others think, knowing there will be some who like what I create and some who don’t and accepting that I can’t make everyone happy.

How about you? Have you found your creativity has become more stifled or more open the older you’ve become?

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.

I’ve decided the more I’m off social media, the more creative I can be, which is why it looks like another social media detox is coming up in the next week or so and it may last 30-days like I did earlier this year.

Actually, saving my creativity isn’t the only reason for dropping off social media – saving my sanity is more important at this point. In May I actually deleted my Facebook account, except for a ghost account to keep my blog page on there. Ignoring my better judgment, I went back on at the end of the summer and I can’t see that it has improved my life much at all.

When I slip into a depression slump I find myself scrolling through social media too much and when I scroll through social media too much I don’t do things I need to do or really want to do, like write my book or write a blog post or take photographs or – blah – clean the house. I just end up a depressed, moody slug sitting in front of my computer. I also end up angry, bitter and frightened for my childrens’ future.

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This past spring I did a social media detox and that’s when I started writing ‘A Story to Tell’ and decided to publish it as a weekly serial on here and then as a Kindle book. The success for me was simply how writing the story, and sharing it on my blog, was a distraction from social media, “news”, and from some challenging relationships in my life.

When I go on social media, I end up so wrapped up in the nonsense I read that I neglect the parts of my life that actually bring me joy — especially the more creative parts.

 

Social media is an addiction for many people. If you think it isn’t for you, do what I did last December and focus on how often you reach for your phone or computer to log into social media each day. Notice how many times you log into social media when you’re bored, lonely, procrastinating or avoiding real life (or certain people). I bet it’s more than you think because I know it was for me.

Another important aspect of learning how social media affects you is to notice how you feel after you sign off social media, or a news site.  Do you feel happier? I’m going to guess the majority of us can’t say that we feel anymore enlightened, elated, or hopeful about life after we’ve scrolled through a social media site. On the contrary, we probably feel like the world is on fire.

For creatives, it’s important to ask yourself if social media supports or hinders your creative flow. I’ve personally found that excessive social media use rarely supports creativity. In fact, for me, the constant digital noise I once engaged in silenced creativity altogether.

How can you think of new ideas, or use your imagination, when someone, or something, is constantly in your ear telling you what you think and who you are? More than once in the last two years, I have read about the need for all of us to seek more solitude and shut out the noise of the world around us.

Silence can facilitate daydreaming and daydreaming supports and strengthens our imagination. Imagination leads to creativity and then creativity leads to joy for even the most left-brained person out there. Creativity isn’t always about the arts . Creativity is also important for technical thinkers out there who need time create plans for projects or lists for completing whatever it is that helps them feel more organized. For many of us, organization helps us feel more grounded. Not having the time to create that organization because we are distracted by social media can leave us feeling discombobulated. 

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I have asked myself why there were so many great writers hundreds of years ago and less of them today? I have a feeling it is because hundreds of years ago the only thing people had time to do when the sun went down was think and daydream.

It’s not that social media is all evil. It connects us with new people, new ideas, and different worlds. It helps us reach people in a way we never could before. The evil part of social media is that we have allowed it, and what is shared on it, to distract us to the point that we have pushed aside activities that could actually further our society. Social media has no power over us that we don’t give it and many of us (me included) have given it awhole lot of power, let me tell you.

I don’t have any proof that inventions and innovations have decreased since the Internet and social media took over the world, and the exact opposite may be true in some fields, but I wonder if cures for cancer, or solutions to climate change, would have been found already if half of us weren’t scrolling social media; watching the circuses that are our congresses and parliaments; judging our neighbors; tsk-tsking the family member or acquaintance  in the middle of a divorce who has decided to write about it on social media; comparing ourselves to every other mother, writer, photographer, human being on the planet; and trying to change ourselves to fit some imaginary ‘normal’ in society.

Think about all the positive changes we could have made, not only in our own personal lives but in the world in general, if we weren’t staring at cat memes on our phones all day long. I have a feeling Satan knows that and has enjoyed dangling stupidity in front of us so we wander off the path we should have been taking all along.

All of this to say, I need another social media detox and you probably need it too. During my break last year and earlier this year, I offered some tips how to “survive” (or rather thrive) when you leave social media (even if only for 30-days); what I had time to do once I set social media aside; and how I felt when I logged back into Facebook after such a long break.

I know some of my blog readers aren’t even on social media (God bless you!) and some were on and promptly logged back off again. What’s your experience with social media? Do you find it stifles your creativity or productivity? How do you handle that? Are you better than me at balancing social media with your real life? If so, I’d love some pointers about how you do it. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. The last time I wrote about social media (Facebook for most of us), I had some really fun and insightful comments. 

 

 

Here is a little advice: if you have found an activity you enjoy and there is a forum you can join that you think will help you learn more about said activity, don’t join the forum.

Just don’t.

Especially if the forum is on Facebook. Before long the people on there – all with their own opinion about how you should conduct your new activity – will suck the joy out of your new activity and maybe even the joy out of you as a whole.

Trust me on this.

Say you want to learn more about photography. More often than not, you will hear things like, (said in a pretentious, stuck up, posh, for the British, voice): “Are you only using a Nikon 50 mm 1.8? That’s such a cheap piece of plastic. You really should invest $500,000 and then maybe you can be a good photographer.”; or

“You don’t know how to use photoshop or Lightroom? Well, then you will never be a real photographer.”

Or, for writers:

“You didn’t plot your book with spreadsheets and post- it notes and notebooks outlining every detail of your character for four years before you started writing? Well, you’ll never be a real novelist.”

“You didn’t pay $1,000 or more for an editor to edit your novel before you sent it to a literary agent or before you self published it? Well, then, you can never be a real author. Loser.”

I leave those forums thinking: “Forget it. If I have to spend thousands so a bunch of people can claim I’m now legit in whatever activity I enjoy then I am fine with not being legit. I am done with no one knowing who I am, never hiring me and not selling books. Who needs all these rules anyhow?”

I’ve learned that sometimes it simply isn’t worth the aggravation to seek support or advice from others. If you are going to join one of those groups, just grow a thick skin, remember why you started doing your activity in the first place, and learn how to skip over the Negative Nellies of the world. You’ll be much happier for it.

Parents: “Let’s go blueberry picking!”

Almost 13-year old: “Yeah, fine. Okay.”

Almost 5-year old: “Yeah! Blueberries!”

Parents: “We’re here! Where should we pick? Here again? Like last year? Okay!”

Outside the car, all reflecting on how it’s as hot as it was last year and noticing arms and legs feel like licorce that’s been sitting in the sun too long.

Almost 13-year old: “”Och! Man! A gnat just flew up my nose!”

Parents: “Just keep picking! It will be fine.”

Almost 5-year old: “Look! A blueberry!” (eats it)

Parents: “No, no. We are picking the blueberries and putting the in the bucket, not eating them. Okay. Yep. That’s right. In the bucket.”

Almost 13-year old: “There is a gnat in my eye! My eye!”

Parents: “I forgot the bug spray. Wave them away.”

Almost 5-year old: “I’m hot.”

Almost 13-year old: “Can gnats get to your brain from ears?! They are in my ears!”

Almost 5-year old: “Did you bring snacks? I’m hungry.”

Parent: “I told you to get a snack before you came. Besides, you’re eating the blueberries. How can you be hungry?”

Almost 13-year old: “I just ate a gnat! It flew in my mouth! Blech!!”

Almost 5-year old: “Do they  have a potty here?”

Parent: “We’re in the middle of nowhere. Pee in the woods.”

Almost 5-year old: (look of disgust.) “Uh…no.”

Almost 13-year old, eating blueberries and swatting gnats: “mmmm..blueberries.”

Parent: “Put the blueberries in the bucket, not your mouth.”

Almost 5-year old: “I’m going to the car now.”

Parent: “You can’t go to the car now. It’s locked.”

Almost 13-year old: “I need water.”
Parent: (looks at phone) “We’ve only been here four minutes! Are you kids serious right now?!”

Luckily we found a port-a-potty, moved to another spot, and the sun went behind the cloud for about 20 minutes, letting us finish picking with minimal whining. We came home with seven pounds of blueberries, which were gone in less than a week. Not sure what that says about us.

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The mother in an online support group for moms with anxiety and depression asked all us faceless mothers on the other side of the screen: “Why can’t I get it together?”

She asked because she felt alone

Many of us let her know she was not alone, we were right there with her.

We all had felt less than. We all had felt not enough.

We all had wondered why we couldn’t seem to “get it together.”

We moms look for anything that proves we are a bad mother. We do it without even realizing we are. We may not say it, but we think it, dwell on it, speak it over ourselves.

At night, in the dark, we whisper lies to our soul.

“I’m a horrible mother.”

“What was God thinking making me their mother?”

All moms overthink motherhood at some point in their journey.

We overthink about what others think we should be doing.

We overthink about an article that listed what shouldn’t be doing and mentally check off those things we have done.

We overthink mistakes we think will ruin our children.

We overthink and overthink until our thoughts spin so far out we can’t remember where they started.

“Did I hug him enough today?”

“Did I play with her enough today?”

“Was I too easy on him when he made that mistake?”

“Should I have told her she couldn’t play that long on the phone today?”

“Is that stomachache something worse?”

And when you throw in depression? The overthinking happens even more. Thoughts spin even more, spiral us down into dispair and the inability to move forward.

Depression clouds thoughts. It stifles truth.

It tells us we are bad mothers because we deal with depression.

The reality is, all moms are flying by the seat of their pants. We trust our motherly instincts and doubt them at the same time. We are a mess of contradictions.

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_DSC5801.jpgAll moms struggle. All moms wonder why we don’t have “it” together, why we can’t just GET it together.

So often I wonder, ‘what does it mean to “get it together” anyhow?’ What are we getting together? Whose standards do we think we need to meet before we have it “all together?” Does anyone really have it, whatever it is, together?

I don’t know any human being who is perfect. They may look perfect, but we know they’re not because we’re not.

Maybe one mom doesn’t have anxiety or depression, but she has a physical limitation.

Maybe one mom looks beautiful on the outside but inside she holds on to ugly secrets.

Maybe one mom feels like slowing down and letting go of looking perfect will show she is unworthy of what she thinks she has to earn.

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Anxiety strangles me most days.

Depression whispers in my ear that I’m never going to be worth anything and I’m never going to be a good mother, writer, photographer, friend, wife, child of God.

Those are the moments I have to fight, even when I’m too tired to fight. I have to learn to expect that all things will work together for His good and His glory – even anxiety and depression.

Sometimes anxiety slows me down. Sometimes slowing down is a gift.

Sometimes slowing down makes me focus on what I have.

Sometimes slowing down reminds me what others may, or may not, be thinking about me doesn’t even matter.

Depression doesn’t make you weak.

Depression doesn’t make you wrong.

Depression doesn’t make you unworthy, unloveable.

Depression doesn’t make you a bad person.

Battling depression and anxiety doesn’t make you a bad mother.

The battle will make you stronger even when you feel weaker.